Travel advisors on the third of four, two-night inaugural sailings aboard Celebrity Edge were unanimous in their praise for the new ship, which will be alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from the line’s new terminal in Ft. Lauderdale before moving to Europe for the 2019 summer season.
One advisor who praised the ship as a “modern marvel” told executives — including President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service Dondra Ritzenthaler — that the line was not only the easiest cruise brand to work with, but was among the best in the entire travel industry. The advisor said Celebrity empowers its travel agency sales team to find solutions when there are problems.
“There is no other cruise line that is so accommodating and empowering to create solutions. You make us effective,” said Scott Grody of Scott Grody Travel, adding with Edge, “You are reinventing cruising, and it will be a long time before the other guys catch up.”
Another area of praise is Celebrity’s new terminal, which enables guests who download the app and use online check-in, and board within five minutes of arriving. Ritzenthaler told the advisors in the audience that it is critical they encourage clients to take advantage of the technology so they can get their vacations off to a fast start. “If you don’t make sure they download the app and do the online check-in, they are going to arrive and see everyone else flying through, and when they are waiting in line, they’re going to get frustrated at us and you,” she said.
Another agent praised the company’s community engagement, telling executives that it made her “proud to sell Celebrity.” Lutoff-Perlo said, “We believe we have an obligation to give back,” noting the company had donated 250 cabins on the sailing to United Way of Broward County to sell and use all the proceeds for charitable endeavors.
At the same time, Lutoff-Perlo noted the company’s focus on being an employer of choice by ensuring equal pathways for career opportunities. Under her tenure, the percentage of female navigation officers has jumped to 20 percent from 5 percent in the past two years. Over 30 percent of Edge employees are women, compared to typically less than 20 percent aboard most ships, she said.
One advisor said, when she asked a member of the crew what he liked best about Edge, he said the crew facilities. Lutoff-Perlo told the audience, during the design process, the company brought a dozen shipboard employees to corporate headquarters in Miami to ask them what they would like. The response was to have crew quarters and dining facilities closer to the “modern luxury” standards as guests, something she said has been achieved, including a tasting restaurant where crew can sample dishes from the ship’s specialty restaurants. As part of the over $500 million the company is investing in its existing fleet, she said crew quarters, restaurants and lounges will be upgraded, as well, with similar design features to renovated cabins.
One advisor expressed frustration that clients who are shareholders of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. cannot combine shareholder discounts with other promotions, something competitors allow. CFO Jason Liberty said that the company is looking into it and expects to make an announcement in the first quarter of 2019.
Another advisor said he would like more opportunities to customize videos that he can share via social media and email campaigns. Peter Giorgi, Celebrity’s CMO, said in the last two years, he has added two, full-time videographers, underscoring the power of the medium. He said while most marketing materials can be customized with a call to action for the agency, and there were some limited video customization capabilities, he plans to look into how he can provide a solution that can be scaled to the needs of the brand’s numerous agency partners.
For agents who have not yet been aboard Edge, a 3-D tour of the vessel is available. It is narrated by company Chairman Richard Fain and Lutoff-Perlo, who says it was filmed using 106 cameras over multiple days. The tour gives advisors insider insights into the motivations, inspirations and benefits of the vessel’s various facilities and amenities that they can share with clients.